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Vile Rat
  • March 01, 2013 : 11:03
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The group was discussing whether there should be the equivalent of political parties within their online world. “The party system is a good way to get ideas coalesced around a particular candidate,” Smith said, despite others’ reservations. He suggested using the American system of democratic primaries as a model. “All the different candidates go in there and say, ‘Okay, we’re going to have our ideas clash, and the best person is going to get the votes of the community.’”

Meanwhile, a storm was brewing in Libya around similar issues: party systems, candidates, control, power. People were fighting over some of the same values Smith was lobbying for in Eve. And as he discovered to his horror just five months after the Fanfest, they were willing to kill for what they believed in.

Through the summer of 2012 a series of violent episodes in Libya heightened anxiety among Americans there—kidnappings, assassination attempts, attacks perpetrated by Al Qaeda operatives. The American diplomats, led by Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, continued their work. Then on the evening of September 11 the situation exploded in a crescendo of terror outside Sean Smith’s room in the consulate.

It began at 9:42 p.m., when mobs of armed men launched their assault. Seventeen minutes later a U.S. surveillance drone was dispatched to fly overhead. Less than 90 minutes after the initial assault, President Obama was alerted to the situation by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

By that time Smith had already typed his last words online from his desk. As he heard the security alarm sound over the gunfire, a security agent tried desperately to lead him and Ambassador Stevens toward safety. But there was no safety to be found. The building burst into flames, and asphyxiating black smoke choked the air. By the time the three reached an escape window, the smoke was so thick they could barely breathe.

On the brink of passing out, the security agent leaped out a window, gulping in air. Then he tore back inside. Frantically, he peered through the conflagration for Smith and Stevens, only to feel his lungs dam up with hellish darkness. Desperate to stay alive, the agent bolted for the roof to alert backup. An armored car arrived, and a team of agents stormed the building, scanning for Smith and Stevens in the flames.

In the online world that Smith called home, Goons were reeling. Smith had abruptly logged off mid-chat. Was he alive or dead? This wasn’t the first time Smith had been caught in crossfire, and his fellow Goons figured he was okay. “Sean, as long as Goons have known him, has been in some tough spots where places were hot and getting attacked,” Lohman says. “He drops and says, ‘Gotta go, gotta go,’ and everyone laughs about it. There’s a dark humor element. This was one of those times.”

But as news of the attack hit the internet, Lohman began to feel increasingly nervous. With contacts from his job in government security and the spy world, he tapped his channels for information but kept coming up empty. “No one had anything, and the State operations center wasn’t talking,” he recalls. Finally another government-employed Goon tipped him off that Vile Rat was likely inside the consulate at the time. Casualties were being reported. “It’s probably Sean,” he told Lohman, “but I don’t know for sure.”

Over at CCP in Iceland, Conover reached out to Gianturco to see if he knew anything. The news wasn’t good. “Oh no, the attack on the Libyan consulate,” Gianturco said. “Oh no, he’s in there.”

“Relax,” Conover replied, trying to reassure himself against the unimaginable. “He’s fine, no way.”

In Eve, as in any other video game, there’s one large difference from life off-line. In a video game, you have control. You can sit down and escape into a pixelated universe of friends and fun. Yes, you can die, but you can always come back. Even in Eve, where mortality is part of the game, if you die you can always enter the game again as a clone of your former self. You can live forever, fix your mistakes, find community and solace. And if anything goes wrong, all you have to do is hit a few buttons on your keyboard and start all over. That’s what made this game such a haven for Smith and everyone else who found a home in Eve.

There was just one problem: It wasn’t real.

The next day, Gianturco took to the Eve Online community to tell them that, this time, real war, real flames, real smoke, the awful and uncontrollable reality of reality, had beaten their friend. “My people, I have grievous news,” he wrote. “Vile Rat has been confirmed to be KIA in Benghazi; his family has been informed and the news is likely to break out on the wire services soon. Needless to say, we are in shock, have no words and have nothing but sympathy for his family and children. I have known Vile Rat since 2006; he was one of the oldest of old-guard Goons and one of the best and most effective diplomats this game has ever seen. His family is in our thoughts and prayers.”

Smith, Stevens and two American security agents had been killed in the attack. The news sent shock waves through the community online and at CCP. “It’s just fucking odd,” Touborg recalls. “Of all the people in Africa, four Americans die and you knew one of them—it was like getting struck by lightning.”

“This is a man who was doing good work in Libya, trying to help people, and for this to happen was a terrible way to go,” Conover says. “And the flip side was that Sean touched a lot of people in the game. As a diplomat, he was the guy people would talk to, he was the guy making sure we had friends. After seven years the people you touch and the ripples you create are tremendous. That’s what makes it such a terrible thing.”

It wasn’t the first time a gamer in Eve died in real life, and there was some hesitancy to treat Smith’s death differently from others. But the pilots of Eve knew this was unique given the awful nature of the attack and Smith’s legendary status in the game. He was their greatest diplomat, online and off, and they would give him the send-off he deserved.

In addition to being memorialized in news pages and broadcasts across the world, Sean Smith became an unlikely lightning rod of outrage.

Conservative talk show host Glenn Beck accused Smith of being a CIA operative.

Smith’s mother briefly took to the airwaves, pleading for answers from the government. “I begged them to tell me what happened,” she said. “I look at TV and I see bloody handprints on walls, thinking, My God, is that my son’s? I don’t know if he was shot. I don’t know—I don’t know. They haven’t told me anything. They are still studying it. And the things that they are telling me are just outright lies.”

The deaths of Smith and the other Americans have continued to plague the Obama administration. Despite high-profile hearings, the entire truth about what happened in Benghazi may never be known.

In death as in life, Sean Smith was honored in the two worlds he inhabited. In the real world the tribute came on September 14 at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, D.C. A Marine procession carried the coffins of those killed in Libya onto the tarmac, draped in American flags. A somber crowd, including Smith’s family, gathered as President Obama and Hillary Clinton took the podium to address them.

“Sean Smith, it seems, lived to serve,” Obama said. “First in the Air Force, then with you at the State Department. He knew the perils of this calling from his time in Baghdad. There in Benghazi, far from home, he surely thought of Heather and Samantha and Nathan, and he laid down his life in service to us all. Today Sean is home.”

Clinton also cited the friends, family and colleagues Smith left behind but added “and that’s just in this world. Because online, in the virtual worlds that Sean helped create, he is also being mourned by countless competitors, collaborators and gamers who shared his passion.”

For Smith and the others, after all, Eve was more than just a way to merge his online and off-line worlds of war games. It was a community. As a real-life envoy he was often on the move, far from his family, his friends and the safety of suburban life. Whether he was in Pretoria or Baghdad, he could sit down, press a few buttons and tap into a world of players who knew him better than anyone at his temporary posts. “At the end of three years he’s off to somewhere else,” says Lohman. “He didn’t have time to get to know anybody. The internet is always on, so he put his time there.”

Gamers took to Twitter to honor his memory. “Sean Smith had it right,” tweeted one. “Use diplomacy in real life and only fight wars with other gamers online.” Some posted YouTube videos. “To the rest of the world, his name was Sean Smith,” reads the text overlay of one as it fades into dreamy space clouds. “To us, his name was Vile Rat.” But the most elaborate honor came inside the game itself. Dozens of players steered their ships into outer space, positioning themselves over a patch of deep black darkness and flickering white stars. There, they ignited spherical defense fields that emitted a purplish glow. From a distance, the lights of the individual purple spheres blurred together to spell a phrase, one that burned indelibly in their hearts and minds:

“RIP Vile Rat.”

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read more: entertainment, Gaming, video games, issue april 2013

214 comments

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    RIP Vile rat, you'll be missed o7
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    RIP VILE RAT You will be missed, sir.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    RIP Vile Rat. Very well written article, its great to see that the media has taken an interest into our game and the complexity of it. It is not an easy game, and that is why I believe it attracts many people from various professional backgrounds.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Покойся с миром Vile Rat
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    True hero in all aspects.. RIP Vile Rat, you are missed...
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    I play EVE, and though I am not a member of Vile Rat's alliance, I knew him through others, and it saddens me deeply that I didn't get the chance to meet him in game... that would have been an over-joyous occasion.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    o7 vile rat, peace be uppon you
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    If you ever need to find the way home, we'll light up the map with cynos. RIP Vile Rat O7
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Vile Rat was a hero to us all, both in Eve, and in the real world. A model of a father, husband, and patriot. Shoot blues then tell Vile Rat. RIP one of the best of us.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Fly safe Vile Rat *bows*
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    not only the ship display of text, but for several months thousands of player owned stations were re-named in his honor.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    o7 Vile Rat. Good job Playboy.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    RIP m8 u will never be forgotten
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Excellent article, thank you for getting this right! RIP VR -S7
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    I play Eve myself and I was moved by this article. It was well written, and gives a good overview of Smith's life as a diplomat and as a gamer. o/
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    I've played eve for some 7 or 8 odd years. I was never in any way on par with the corporations of factions that Vile Rat was a part of, and I have never met the man. Being an Veteran of Desert Storm I did see friends and passersby in the steel halls of my ship pass away and die. whether they be pilots or cooks, to firemen, they were all part of a brotherhood, and they're deaths were not something to be taken lightly. Our own government fails to take care of our own and remember their contributions, but the brotherhood of New Eden will always remember.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Will miss you in local forever! RIP our friend
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Jump through. Hold cloak, wait for us to catch up. R.I.P. Vile Rat.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    o7 vile ratt! You helped make a game fun for thousands of us! Lumpynurse
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Shoot Blues. Tell Vile Rat. o7
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    RIP Vile Rat, Shot blues and call Vile Rat this day
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    fly safe in heaven Vile Rat.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    In both this reality and our virtual he lead in honor. His name is forever stamped in the stars of New Eden as a legend of its definitive longevity. - Miskondukt, GENTS
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    RIP Vile Rat, you are missed in EVE and in real life! A very good article. VV
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Our hats are dipped low to such a man of courage and greatness may his battle cruiser speed him on his way to the halls of his forefathers where may sit watching what happens next.. peace be with you always.....Lordcryus CEO Brewcorp
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    A moving tribute of a man and a true diplomat and never a truer example of how New Eden is really no different to real life, friendships are made and lives impacted by what we do, who we do it with or to and the outcomes we all share. RIP Sean Smith AKA Vile Rat
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Thank you Playboy for honoring our fallen friend. RIP Vile Rat
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    au revoir Vile Rat. Kry'Ger
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    I shot a blue but I can't tell Vile Rat. :( RIP Vile Rat
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    RIP Vile Rat. I'm surprised to see such a well written and researched article on Playboy. A far better job than just about any mainstream news outlet managed. This writer deserves a bonus!
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Thank you for honoring our friend. RIP Vile.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Your actions will live with us all good sir! Your fight will go on forever... O7
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Gone but not forgoten
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    I'll always remember when I was new to the sov warfare, deployed for the first time down in Delve on July 2012, joining prolly my 1st or 2nd fleet..... tons of people in local, then I noticed one: VIle Rat. I smiled for his name, for his fame, for me being there. RIP Sean
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    I talked with Vile Rat in local chat once. He was one of the most interesting players I have ever met and I am sorry I didn't get a chance to know him better. RIP Vile Rat. May your soul move through the heavens and bring light wherever you may go.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Brilliant article, o7 VR
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Shoot blues, tell vile rat. R.I.P my friend
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    o7 I'm inspired to rejoin the stars after reading this article, too long I have not known of this. I never really liked the swarm(although they did provide much needed humor in my life) but I will always respect Vile till the day I die, not many could do what he did, and to lose him to hatred is a truly horrific image. An image that those that wish for peace are often the first to be taken from us by those who wish for violence. R.I.P. Vile Rat, although I've never met you(in real life or eve), I will always have great respect for you...and what you have accomplished.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    rip vile rat ty from ur friends in fa
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Rest in Peace good sir! Your actions were swift and true. Your leadership was legendary and your fight will go on and live forever. You will be remembered. You are the strength, courage, and willingness to succeed that will live with us forever.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    RIP Vile Rat, recognised even in playboy.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    R.I.P Good friend, you are sadly missed IRL and in game
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Never forgotten, Brother.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    The greatest of men are known by but a few. Their efforts are felt by many
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    R.I.P Vile Rat from your spacebros in SMA
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    It is a shame he was apart of one of the most hated Corps in Eve online
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    RIP Vile Rat, never had the honour of knowing you in game, but a gamer is a gamer and when one does the final logout it's sad.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    RIP Sean, I hope you and your family have found peace.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    The last election guaranteed that those responsible for his death would never answer for their crimes. RIP Sean
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    So glad we could raise the money for his family. Rest in peace my friend
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    RIP Vile Rat. Anytime you need a cyno to guide you home, we'll light up the fucking map for you.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    RIP Vile Rat Space is not the same with out you.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    RIP VR never not shoot blues
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    From all in DNS to Sean and his family RIP Vile
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    RIP, vile rat. Baline
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    You are missed. And thank you.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    We will never know? Sean Smith was lost because it was an administration that refused requests to improve security. Requests were filed repeatedly by the Ambassador. The former Seals, true Americans heroes will never be honored for the valiant efforts that night of more than 6 hours of hard combat, repeated requests for support went unanswered, we left our men to rot. We have American Diplomats still recovering from injuries at Walter Reed Hospital. Congress has not been provided a single eye witness while many were rescued. We will never know because it was a cover up for the sake of a poltical narrative. We will never know because a President choose to bury the bravery of 2 incredible heroes, Sean who was a such a terrific guy and the Ambassador who went there to make a difference.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Rest in peace mate and thanks for everything you have done in eve
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Shoot Blues, Tell Vile Rat ... RIP the greatest Diplomat EVE has ever seen.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    RIP VR... The worlds you touched are forever changed because of your care. - Clansworth
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Shoot blues everyday. RIP Vile Rat.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Rest in peace my man, you did good.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    You did good VR, you did good. RIP buddy.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    RIP Vile Rat, you are missed -Alpha Tenshi
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    o7 We salute you, even though you have passed on, you will not be forgotten. Your actions have made this world a better place in both the Milky way and New eden.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Hopefully you have found peace, you will never be forgotten. RIP Sean Smith a.k.a. Vile Rat
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    There is nothing that I can say to explain why I am so sad at Sean's death RIP Vile Rat
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Sleep with the stars tough guy.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    R.I.P Sean "Vile Rat" Smith
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    May his pod float along the stars forever.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    ""The deaths of Smith and the other Americans have continued to plague the Obama administration. Despite high-profile hearings, the entire truth about what happened in Benghazi may never be known." "Really??? The end of this article is a massive political rescue of an administration which had HOURS, many hours to send a bunch of helicopters from the American Base called Sigonella in Sicily. They could have done this minutes after hearing the news of it which was immediate, yet, nothing. So from minute one they were already on containment mode. So sorry if I don't give a damn about any comment or speech Clinton and Obama might have said after the fact they stubbornly kept referring to as an overblown reaction to a moronic trailer of a movie never created.""" Wow, someone is never gonna be a playboy bunny when they grow up.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Rip Vile Rat -Volatile Power
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    RIP Sean "Vile Rat" Smith. One of those very few True Heroes
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    RIP Vile Rat, you will always be remembered.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    RIP Vile Rat. You will forever be remembered. Ingame and out
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    R.I.P. Vile Rat. "every rifter counts , friend"
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    o7 Vile Rat.......sleep well my friend
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    RIP Vile Rat. You're an inspiration to us all.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    RIP Vile Rat, from S2N and N3.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Named my 4 bill isk ratting ship RIP Vile Rat after Sean My it live forever as you live in our harts
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    RIP Sean Smith a.K.a Vile Rat. see ya in Heaven buddy! ^_^7 -Indonesian Eve Online Player Community.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Shoot blues, tell Vile Rat. RIP
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    RIP Vile Rat. You shall forever be missed. -Reimon Jeh (PRAX) [GENTS]
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Amazing write-up, RIP Vile Rat
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Rip Vile Rat Also who is tigerlilly?
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Shoot blues, tell Vile Rat. RIP
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Abandoned by the man he "supported". His death mere political expedient. An absolute disgrace.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    shoot blues tell vile rat
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Man, RIP Vile Rat. Great man, great article. Thank you
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    FS and GF. RIP Vile Rat
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    We will never forget our fallen comrade Vile Rat
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    RIP Vile Rat I know you will always fly safe, and have fun.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Shoot blues; tell Vile Rat
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    o7 RIP Vile Rat. I may have never been graced with meeting you, but I admire and respect you all the same. Fly Safe and Swarm Heaven.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Sean Smith RIP my brother
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Shoot blues, mail Vile Rat.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    RIP Vile Rat o7 fly safe
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    RIP Vile Rat. Fly save up there.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Rest in peace space friend :(
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Goodnight, sweet prince. You were too good for us.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    RIP Sean. We miss you every day.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    RIP Vile Rat o7 flay safe
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    An extraordinary human being. It was a privilege and an honour knowing you.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Rest in peace, Vile Rat O7
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Well played playboy, well played. Never forget, Vile Rat.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Brought to tears by an article in Playboy...
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    RIP Vile Rat He would be happy to see EVE getting more attention than ever.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    RIP Sean .... Never forgoten
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    I knew VR in both RL and ingame, he was a great man! RIP Vile Rat, you may be gone but we will never forget you! as for the political side of this, I am still outraged! No answers and probably never will. Not with this joke of a President. Shows where his priorities are and you can best believe its not on help us out, Unless your an illegal
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    You will not be forgotten, spacebro
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    RIP Vile Rat, I've never met you personally, but I enjoy the Galaxie that you helped creating. I hope you find whatever you're seeking.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    RIP Sean may your soul travel the stars for eternity
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    RIP Vile Rat. May you find the peace in death you tried so hard to get in life brother. Fly safe
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    RIP Vile Rat we'll never forget you mate.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    RIP Vile Rat. You will forever be remembered.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    RIP Sean we miss you man! Chyph3r
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    "The deaths of Smith and the other Americans have continued to plague the Obama administration. Despite high-profile hearings, the entire truth about what happened in Benghazi may never be known." Really??? The end of this article is a massive political rescue of an administration which had HOURS, many hours to send a bunch of helicopters from the American Base called Sigonella in Sicily. They could have done this minutes after hearing the news of it which was immediate, yet, nothing. So from minute one they were already on containment mode. So sorry if I don't give a damn about any comment or speech Clinton and Obama might have said after the fact they stubbornly kept referring to as an overblown reaction to a moronic trailer of a movie never created.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    R.I.P. Cant Believe its been a year already..
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Absolutely awesome. I knew Sean in game and having an article in playboy about him is great.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    We love you, we miss you. Sleep sweet.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Shoot Blues -> Tell Vile Rat
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Rip vile rat we miss you
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    FUCK the USAmerican Battleship politics - FUCK the US created wars worldwide - Rest in peace Vile Rat you are always here with us in New Eden
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    RIP Vile Rat. Fly safe o7
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    RIP Vile Rat, we still miss you. Damn you Playboy for getting it so very right and bringing tears to my eyes again. Well written, and well said. Ad honorari mortui nostrum diu vivunt cordibus nostris!
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    May the c-beams always glitter in the dark for you... RIP Vile Rat
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    It wasn't "a gamer" who wrote "Use diplomacy in real life and only fight wars with other gamers online," it was Frank Conniff, better known as TV's Frank from the show Mystery Science Theater 3000.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Shoot blues, tell Vile Rat. RIP my friend.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    07 May New Eden forever cry out your name. Fly Safe Buddy
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    RIP Sean, we miss you.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    RIP.... but since I'm on this page I might as well...
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    RIP Vile Rat. The UMI-KK bubbles burn bright.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    R.I.P Vile Rat. See ya on the other side bro. 07
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    RIP Vile Rat This was one of the best-informed and well written articles I have read on this subject!
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Vile Rat. We will never forget you. But these were not dozens there were hundreds of Pilots to say goodbye to our Friend! R.I.P
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